While former President Donald Trump still enjoys substantial support among GOP voters, criticism from within the party itself has been festering for the last two years and the arrival of new 2024 presidential contenders means that Trump must do much more to win the 2024 nomination than he did in 2020.
After an accidental dinner with a white supremacist, two years of accusations of large-scale election fraud, and controversial attacks on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the former president may be realizing that his words matter more than ever.
Ahead of a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) taking place this week, too, Trump could perhaps be wise to rethink his approach to campaigning.
Less Criticism, More Positivity from Donald Trump at CPAC
A common criticism shared on the Twitterverse – admittedly, this is not the most academic way to analyze the situation, but online pundits may have a point here – is that the former president spends too much time criticizing and complaining.
Rather than criticizing his opponents on Twitter, and complaining about Fake News coverage, Trump may benefit from focusing more on his vision for America rather than his frustration with the political and media establishment.
In 2016, Trump’s “What do you have to lose?” message proved powerful, and combined with the inherent optimism of his Make America Great Again slogan, he proved that an outsider can win over the public and become the leader of the free world even when the entire political establishment opposes it.
Trump may have even bigger hurdles to cross this time around, though, with Democrats working overtime to indict him for anything and members of his own party now questioning whether he is still fit to lead.
On top of avoiding unnecessary criticism of his opponents, some of whom are already popular within the party, Trump may actually benefit from offering some nice words about them.
Nikki Haley, one of just a handful of Republicans who have put their name forward for 2024 so far, is a Trump admin alumnus.
Rather than bashing Haley in the same way he did his opponents in 2016, Trump could easily flip the script, praise Haley for her work under his administration, and avoid a bitter feud that could further damage the legacy of his 2017-2021 administration.
Praising Haley won’t turn Trump voters away from him, but could win over voters who aren’t best pleased about his attacks on other GOP figures.
How Should Trump Handle DeSantis?
The same could be said about Trump’s approach to DeSantis. Rather than engaging in full-scale war – a war that has yet to see DeSantis even arrive on the battlefield, with the Florida governor having so far ignored Trump’s attacks – Trump may find it easier to win over DeSantis backers by describing him as a candidate for another time.
To many, DeSantis is already winning the fight without even responding to Trump – and the governor of Florida has yet to even confirm that he plans to run in 2024.
Trump could learn from this, and in anticipation of DeSantis’ future attacks – likely focused on COVID-19 lockdowns and the vaccine rollout – the former president could easily get ahead of the game and convince GOP voters that DeSantis may be the right candidate for 2028, not 2024.
Donald Trump knows flattery works. He deployed it repeatedly when dealing with foreign adversaries during his time in the White House, and to much success.
He can easily deploy the same tactic in the 2024 presidential primary, and his speech at CPAC is a great opportunity for him to start.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.